British TV Mini-Reviews Update 3 – S – Z

Below are brief summaries of Russell T. Davies two Doctor Who spinoffs.

Title: The Sarah Jane Adventures
Featured Actors: Elisabeth Sladen, Tommy Knight, Daniel Anthony, Anjli Mohindra, Yasmin Paige, John Leeson
Episode Length: 30 minutes
Episodes: 6 except final season
Discs: 3 (depends on season)
Total Seasons (Series): 5
Total Episodes: 23, including pilot
Format: Color, Widescreen, NTSC
Region: 1
Production Source: BBC
General Information: The Doctor’s companion, Sarah Jane Smith gets to have her own adventures, not only saving Earth from invasion but helping aliens who have simply crash-landed on Earth and other non-dangerous or unusual happenings. She adopts a son, Luke, and becomes a mentor to his teenaged friends. This series was created by Davies to be aimed at 8-12 year-olds, and it was unfortunately cut short by the sudden death of the lead actor, Elisabeth Sladen. It also took a little bit to find it’s footing. However, starting with the second season it became an excellent children’s series. The episodes were 30 minutes and two episodes formed a complete story.

Title: Torchwood
Featured Actors: John Barrowman, Eve Myles, Gareth David-Lloyd, Burn Gorman, Naoko Mori
Episode Length: 1 hour
Episodes: 13 per series (season)
Discs: 7 for Series 1, 5 for Series 2, Varied for Mini-Series
Total Seasons (Series): 2 full seasons, plus 2 mini-series
Format: Color, Widescreen, NTSC
Region: 1
Production Source: BBC
General Information: Russell T. Davies created Torchwood as a modern, adult spin-off of Doctor Who, centered on Capt. Jack Harkness, and the Torchwood Institute, a group dedicated to fighting aliens on Earth. There were two 13-episode regular series, followed a few years later by the mini-series Children of Earth and still later the mini-series Miracle Day. I only have the core series on DVD. I have seen Children of Earth – it’s the best five hours of TV I will never re-watch (it’s both violent and depressing) and I only saw about half of Miracle Day. The first series also really pushed the envelope of being an “adult” series, whereas series 2 settled in on storytelling, not that series 1 didn’t tell good stories because it did. This series is adults-only.

Title: Upstairs, Downstairs
Featured Actors: Gordon Jackson, Jean Marsh, Angela Baddeley, David Langton, Simon Williams, Christopher Beeny
Episode Length: 1 hour
Episodes: 13 per season (16 for Season 5)
Discs: 4 per season
Total Seasons (Series): 5
Format: Color, Standard, NTSC
Region: 1
Production Source: ITV (Granada)
General Information: Upstairs Downstairs is a British drama series about the Bellamy household who live at 165 Eaton Place in London – both the upper-middle-class Bellamys and their servants who work downstairs. At first glance, it may seem the series idealizes the role of servants in Edwardian England. However, even in this first season that really isn’t the case, and the series often includes clever, yet subtle social comment on the social situation of both the servants and their employers. This series also interweaves the stories of the Bellamys and their servants with the larger story of British history from 1910 to 1930.

Read my Review of Upstairs Downstairs Series 1.
Read my Review of Upstairs Downstairs Series 2.
Read my Review of Upstairs Downstairs Series 3.
Read my Review of Upstairs Downstairs Series 4.
Read my Review of Upstairs Downstairs Series 5.

Title: Waking the Dead
Featured Actors: Trevor Eve, Sue Johnson, Will Johnson, Holly Aired, Claire Goose
Episode Length: 2 hours (two 1-hour parts per story)
Episodes: 4 per season (Series 1 also includes the pilot movie)
Discs: 3 for Series 1, 4 for Series 2
Total Seasons (Series): 9
Format: Color, Widescreen, NTSC
Region: 1
Production Source: BBC
General Information: Detective Superintendent Peter Boyd leads an interdisciplinary group of experts who re-open and investigate cold cases, using techniques that were not available at the time of the original case. I only have seasons 1 and 2, per IMDB.com this series ran for nine seasons.

Title: Whitechapel
Featured Actors: Rupert Penry-Jones, Phil Davis, Steve Pemberton
Episode Length: 1
Episodes: 3 per Series (single story)
Discs:1 (per series)
Total Seasons (Series): 4
Format: Color, Widescreen, PAL
Region: 2
Production Source: ITV
General Information: Set in the modern day, DI Joseph Chandler works in the modern Whitechapel district of London. When a copycat of Jack-the-Ripper starts attacking women he has to team-up not only with his assigned DS but with a Jack-the-Ripper expert who had previously made money leading “Ripper Tours” on the streets of London. Chandler’s life is further complicated by his own severe OCD which is handled in a realistic way. Later seasons also deal with copycat killers who mimic historic crimes. Note that when the first season was released in the US it had the subtitle “The Ripper Returns”. Highly recommended.

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British TV Mini-Reviews Update 2 – L – T

Title: Law and Order: UK
Featured Actors: Bradley Walsh, Jamie Bamber, Harriet Walter, Freema Agyeman
Episode Length: 1 hour
Episodes: 13 per US “set” (Each set is 2 UK series) (8 total)
Discs: 3 per US set
Total Seasons (Series): 4 available , total
Format: Color, Widescreen, NTSC
Region: 1
Production Source: ITV
General Information: A British adaptation of the long-running US series Law and Order, the early seasons of this British show were even based on American scripts that were then adapted to fit the British legal system. The series follows the Major Investigations Unit (the police) and the Crown Prosecution Service (the lawyers). These US sets, exclusive to Target, combine two UK series per set, so set 1 is series one and two and Set 2 is series three and four. Later seasons also had a different cast and are not available in US DVD versions. However, this series does a good job of doing what other Law and Order programs have done, that is, showing a case from its initial investigation by the police to its prosecution of the guilty parties by the state.

Title: The Lord Peter Wimsey Complete Collection
Featured Actors: Ian Carmichael, Glyn Houston, Mark Eden
Episode Length: 1 hour, with several parts forming a complete story.
Episodes: 21
Discs: 6
Total Seasons (Series): 5 (Per “Epguides.Com” each story was one season of the series.)
Format: Color, Standard, NTSC
Region: 1
Production Source: BBC
General Information: Based on Dorothy L. Sayers Lord Peter mysteries from the 1930s, this series faithfully adapts five of the original novels. The mysteries are classics from the Golden Age of British mysteries and Sayers was a contemporary of Agatha Christie.

My Review of the Lord Peter Mysteries.

Title: Merlin
Featured Actors: Colin Morgan, John Hurt, Bradley James, Richard Wilson, Angel Coulby, Katie McGrath, Anthony [Stewart] Head
Episode Length: 1 hour
Episodes: 13 per Season
Discs: 4 or 5 per Season
Total Seasons (Series): 5
Format: Color, Widescreen, NTSC
Region: 1
Production Source: BBC (BBC Wales)
General Information: A teenaged take on the legend of King Arthur, in this series, Arthur is a young prince, Merlin is his servant, and Arthur’s father, King Uther has banned magic and all those who have or use magic. This forces native magic-users, like Merlin, to go underground in hiding. Honestly, it’s better than it sounds and it’s one of my favorite British fantasy series.

Title: Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries
Featured Actors: Essie Davis, Nathan Page, Ashleigh Cummings, Hugo Johnstone-Burt
Episode Length: 1 hour
Episodes: 13 per season
Discs: 4 per season
Total Seasons (Series): 3
Format: Color, Widescreen, NTSC
Region: 1
Production Source: ABC (Australia Broadcasting)
General Information: This series is set in the 1920s and 1930s in Melbourne, Australia, but feels very much like a classic British cozy mystery from the Golden Age of British Mysteries. At times dark, but always very modern, it’s an excellent series. Series 3 is only eight episodes and the set consists of three discs, not four.

My Review of Ms. Fisher’s Murder Mysteries Series 1.
My Review of Ms. Fisher’s Murder Mysteries Series 2.
My Review of Ms. Fisher’s Murder Mysteries Series 3.

Title: Primeval
Featured Actors: Andrew Lee Potts, Hannah Spearritt, Ben Miller, Douglas Henshall, Alexander Siddig, et. al.
Episode Length: 1 Hour
Episodes: 13
Discs: 4
Total Seasons (Series): 5
Format: Color, NTSC
Region: 1
Production Source: ITV
General Information: In the US, this series was published in 3 “volume” sets. Sets 1 and 3 had 13 episodes on 4 discs. Set 2 is 10 episodes on three discs. However, this is, presumably, the entire series. Anomalies appear in modern-day London, allowing dinosaurs and other creatures from the past, and later, the future to arrive in the present. What starts out as “attack of the CGI dinosaurs”, however, becomes much more interesting when people begin to not only travel through time but to change time. Primeval is another of my absolutely favorite British SF/Fantasy series, and I have watched it several times.

Title: Ripper Street
Featured Actors: Matthew MacFadyen, Jerome Flynn, Adam Rothenberg, MyAnna Buring, Charlene McKenna
Episode Length: 1 Hour
Episodes: 8
Discs: 3
Total Seasons (Series): 5
Format: Color, Widescreen, NTSC
Region: 1
Production Source: BBC (Co-produced with Amazon Prime and BBC America)
General Information: The first season of this series is set in the year after Jack the Ripper. DI Edmund Reid has been appointed to White Chapel, a district that now has a deep-seated and understandable distrust of the police. Reid is an honest man who is interested in the more modern and scientific methods of policing and investigation. He hires Homer Jackson, a US army surgeon as his forensic surgeon and investigator. This is a lush, gorgeously realized series that also isn’t afraid to show the dirtiest and more unpleasant aspects of the past, especially in a poor district like White Chapel.

My Review of Ripper Street Season 3.
My Review of Ripper Street Season 4.
My Review of Ripper Street Season 5.

Title: Thunderbirds Are Go
Featured Actors: Rasmus Hardiker, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, David Menkin, Kayvan Novak, Rosamund Pike, David Graham, Sandra Dickinson, Angel Coulby, Andres Williams
Episode Length: 30 Minutes
Episodes: 13 per set, 26 per season
Discs: 2 (per set)
Total Seasons (Series): 3
Format: Color CGI Animation, Widescreen, PAL
Region: 2
Production Source: ITV
General Information: Thunderbirds are Go is a CGI animated updated version of Gerry Anderson’s classic Thunderbirds Supermarionation program. Jeff Tracy starts International Rescue to help people in impossible situations that the normal rescue services can’t help. Even though he has disappeared, his sons carry on with IR and their technologically advanced Thunderbird machines to help people all over the world. The DVD releases split each season in half.

My Review of Thunderbirds Are Go Series 1 Vol. 1.
My Review of Thunderbirds Are Go Series 1 Vol. 2.
My Review of Thunderbirds Are Go Series 2 Vol. 1.
My Review of Thunderbirds Are Go Series 2 Vol. 2.

British TV Mini-Reviews Update 1 – A- J

I recently imported a series of British TV Mini-Reviews from my Live Journal blog, which is now hosted on Dreamwidth here to Bitch with Wi-Fi. However, since those reviews were written in 2009, I’ve since added numerous British and Australian TV series to my collection. Many of these have full reviews on this site, so links to those are also included. So here is the update, part 1.

Title: ANZAC Girls
Featured Actors: Georgia Flood, Antonia Prebble, Laura Brent, Anna McGahan, Caroline Craig, Honey Debelle
Episode Length: 1 Hour
Episodes: 6
Discs: 2
Total Seasons (Series): 1 (Mini-Series)
Format: Color, Widescreen, NTSC
Region: 1
Production Source: ABC (Australia Broadcasting Corp.)
General Information: This series is based on a historical book about Australian and New Zealand nurses in World War I.

Read my Review of ANZAC Girls.

Title: Call the Midwife
Featured Actors: Vanessa Redgrave (voice only), Jessica Raine, Helen George, Miranda Hart, Jenny Agutter, Judy Parfitt, Pam Ferris, Ben Caplan (Series 1)
Episode Length: 1 Hour
Episodes: 6
Discs: 2
Total Seasons (Series): 9 (scheduled)
Format: Color, Widescreen, NTSC
Region: 1
Production Source: BBC
General Information: A long-running series that follows the adventures of a group of Midwives in the UK in the 1950s. I only have the first season.

Read my Review of Call the Midwife Season 1.

Title:: Danger Mouse – Mission Improbable
Featured Actors: Alexander Armstrong, Kevin Eldon, Dave Lamb, Stephen Fry, Shauna MacDonald
Episode Length: 11 minutes (usually, except the occasional 22-minute special)
Episodes: 7
Discs: 1
Total Seasons (Series): 3 (so far)
Total Number of Episodes: 89 (so far)
Format: Color, Animation, Widescreen, PAL
Region: 2
Production Source: CBBC
General Information: An updating of the original Danger Mouse, with a new cast and CGI animation, but still the same plot. Danger Mouse is the world’s smallest secret agent, who along with his assistant, Penfold, keeps the world safe from notorious plots. His boss is Colonel K and he still lives in a red Royal Mail pillar box.

Read my Review of Danger Mouse Mission Improbable.

Title: Doomwatch: Winter Angel
Featured Actors: Trevor Eve, Dallas Campbell
Episode Length: 100 Minutes
Episodes: 1 (Pilot)
Discs: 1
Total Seasons (Series): Pilot made, never went to series
Format: PAL
Region: 2
Production Source: Channel 5 (UK) (Working Title Television)
General Information: An updated continuation of the classic series, Doomwatch created by Gerry Davis and Kit Pedler (who created the Cybermen for Doctor Who in the 1960s), this is a pilot for a series that was never picked up. In the original series, the “Doomwatch” team served as a watchdog group that kept an eye out for environmental and humanist consequences of the actions of business, scientific, or government excesses. This series has university lecturer Neil Tannahill receive a message that something has gone horribly wrong at a nuclear waste disposal site. It is worth noting that the British series, Eleventh Hour starring Patrick Stewart, though not officially connected to the original or the attempted updated version of Doomwatch was very much a spiritual successor and explored similar themes and concepts.

Title: Dorothy L. Sayers Mysteries
Featured Actors: Edward Petherbridge, Harriet Walter, Richard Morant
Episode Length: 1 Hour (Multiple-part stories)
Episodes: 21 (Three Stories)
Discs: 10
Total Seasons (Series): 1
Format: Color, Standard, NTSC
Region: 1
Production Source: BBC / WGBH
General Information: A lavish adaptation of Dorothy L. Sayers later Lord Peter mysteries featuring her aristocratic sleuth meeting, falling in love with, and eventually marrying his wife, Harriet Vane – a mystery writer.

Read my Review of the Dorothy L. Sayers Mysteries.

Title: Framed
Featured Actors: Trevor Eve, Eve Myles
Episode Length: 90-Minute TV Movie
Episodes: 1
Discs: 1
Format: Color, Widescreen, NTSC
Region: 1
Production Source: BBC
General Information: A wonderful story filmed in Wales. When there is a disaster at an art museum in London, the curator proposes moving the art to a small village in Wales for safe-keeping and protection, just like during World War II. This decision and the people of a small Welsh village permanently change the curator.

Read my Review of Framed.

Title: Grantchester
Featured Actors: Robson Green, James Norton, Morven Christie, Tessa Peake-Jones
Episode Length: 1 Hour
Episodes: 6
Discs: 2
Total Seasons (Series): 3
Format: Color, Widescreen, NTSC
Region: R1
Production Source: ITV
General Information: An Anglican priest, Canon Sidney Chambers, and a cop, Inspector Geordie Keating make for unlikely partners and friends, solving crimes in the small community of Grantchester, near Cambridge. This series is set in the 1950s and based on the short stories of James Runcie.

Read my Review of Grantchester Series 1.
Read my Review of Grantchester Series 2.
Read my Review of Grantchester Series 3.

Title: Jewel in the Crown
Featured Actors: Art Malik, Susan Wooldridge, Tim Pigott-Smith, Geraldine James, Charles Dance
Episode Length: 1 Hour
Episodes: 14
Discs: 5
Total Seasons (Series): 1 (Extended Mini-Series)
Format: Color, Standard, NTSC
Region: 1
Production Source: ITV/Granada
General Information: Set in India from 1942 to 1947, this series covers the country’s twilight as part of the British Empire and it’s independence. Much of the focus of the series is the racism of the colonials in India, and the struggles of various people in the country, both the British people who settled there and the Indians who lived there.

Read my Review of Jewel in the Crown.

British TV Mini-Reviews vol. 3 S – Z

Previously published on my Live Journal on: 06/18/2009

Note: This is an older review (Third of three), previously posted to my Live Journal and now hosted on Dreamwidth. This review consists of a series of mini-reviews of various British TV series I have watched and that are in my personal DVD collection. Some of these may also have complete reviews on BitchwithWiFi. I’ve decided to copy it as is, silly asides and all. I did correct typos and formatting. Enjoy!

British TV on DVD Mini-Reviews

TitleThe Smell of Reeves and Mortimer
Featured Actors: Vic Reeves (Jim Moir), Bob Mortimer
Episode Length: 30 minutes
Number of episodes per series (DVD set): 12
Total Seasons (Series): 1
Format: PAL
Region: 2
Production Source: BBC
General Information: Another of Reeves and Mortimer’s New Wave comedies.

TitleSpace: 1999
Featured Actors: Barbara Bain, Martin Landau, Catherine Schell
Episode Length: 1 hour
Number of episodes per series (DVD set): 6
Total Seasons (Series): 2
Format: NTSC
Region: 1
Production Source: ITV
General Information: Due to an accident at a nuclear-waste disposal site on the moon, the moon is sent hurling away from Earth. The people working at moonbase are trapped on the moon, and soon find themselves discovering new life and new civilizations as the moon has sort of  become a spaceship. This is a live-action Gerry Anderson series.

TitleThunderbirds
Featured Actors: Peter Dyneley, Shane Rimmer, David Holliday, Jeremy Wilkin, Matt Zimmerman, David Graham, Ray Barrett, Sylvia Anderson, et. al. (All voices only)
Episode Length:  1 hour
Number of episodes per series (DVD set): 6 (sets 1-4), 5 (set 5), 3 (set 6)
Total Seasons (Series): 2
Format: NTSC
Region: 1
Production Source: ITV
General Information: Gerry Anderson’s most famous and best Supermarionation television series. The series features Jeff Tracy, millionaire, business executive, and former astronaut as the head of International Rescue – a service organization that he started to rescue people anywhere in the world. International Rescue is also a top-secret organization, no one in the world at large knows that Jeff and his sons are the organization. Jeff’s sons are: John Tracy, space monitor aboard Thunderbird 5 a geostationary satellite that can monitor any frequency in the world for distress calls (and communicate back to those in distress); Scott Tracy, the pilot of Thunderbird 1 a super-sonic reconnaissance craft that is normally the first on the scene in the disaster zone; Virgil Tracy, pilot of Thunderbird 2, the organization’s huge transport that carries rescue equipment to the disaster site; Alan Tracy, astronaut and pilot of Thunderbird 3, the organization’s space rocket; and Gordon Tracy, aquanaut and pilot of the organization’s tiny yellow mini-sub. Other regulars include: Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward and her driver/butler Parker, the organization’s London agents; Ma Tracy, Jeff’s mother; Kyrano, Jeff’s loyal gardener, chef, and servant as well as friend; and Kyrano’s daughter Tin-Tin. The regular villain is the Hood. Although a bit dated in places (particularly the use of a villain like the Hood), most of this series really stands up well. Set 4 was the first DVD set I ever bought and I was amazed how well the stories stand up. (I probably would have bought Doctor Who first, but Thunderbirds came out earlier). You do get used to the Supermarionation technique – in many ways, it’s like watching something animation, but of course with models. Derek Meddings did the model work on this and Doctor Who and later became one of the world’s most famous and accomplished model makers, having worked on the James Bond films and many other projects.

Torchwood  – See separate entry under Doctor Who

TitleUFO
Featured Actors: Ed Bishop, George Sewell, Michael Billington, Gabrielle Drake, et. al.
Episode Length: 1 hour
Number of episodes per series (DVD set): 13
Total Seasons (Series): 2
Format: 1
Region: NTSC
Production Source: ITV
General Information: A Gerry Anderson live action series that is much, much better than Space: 1999. Although the series starts slowly, once it gets going it’s a very good SF series. What I particularly liked is that it gives you the feeling the main characters are always behind the 8-ball. No matter what they find out about the aliens they are fighting, it’s never really enough to help them win, and often information comes too late to help. Like all Gerry Anderson shows, including Space: 1999, the model shots are pure perfection. However, unlike Space: 1999UFO has great characters and good, consistent, plotting. It is, however, a bit of a 1970s program, so many of the main characters drink like fish and smoke like chimneys. (And yes, it is a bit unrealistic that members of a super-secret organization like SHADO would drink so much while on duty, but it’s a sign of the times.) SHADO – Supreme Headquarters Alien Defence Organisation, is a secret organization whose purpose is to investigate, research, and ultimately stop the strange UFOs that are suddenly attacking Earth (or at least England) and also kidnapping people. Trust me, it’s fun. And it’s pronounced “you-FOE” as if it’s all one word, not “you-F-oh” like individual letters.

TitleA Very Peculiar Practice
Featured Actors: Peter Davison
Episode Length: 30 minutes
Number of episodes per series (DVD set): 7
Total Seasons (Series): Unknown (I have series 1)
Format: PAL
Region: 2
Production Source: BBC
General Information: Peter Davison plays a doctor for the third time (the others being a vet in All Creatures Great and Small and of course, The Doctor in Doctor Who). This time around he’s a medical doctor at a university campus. This show is also very strange. I bought it because it had Peter Davison in it, and I was never really sure if it worked or not for me.

TitleThe Original Vic Reeves Big Night Out
Featured Actors: Vic Reeves, Bob Mortimer
Episode Length: 30
Number of episodes per series (DVD set): 7
Total Seasons (Series): 2
Note:  Sold in a single DVD set of all 14 episodes.
Format: PAL
Region: 2
Production Source: Channel 4
General Information: The first of  Reeves and Mortimer’s New Wave comedies. This one has a bit of structure, in that it’s designed like a late-night talk show, although it’s actually a complete parody or send-up of that format. It’s really like a parody of David Letterman, even down to the stupid human tricks.

Title: Wire in the Blood
Featured Actors: Robson Green, Hermione Norris
Episode Length: 2 hours
Number of episodes per series (DVD set): 3
Total Seasons (Series): 4 or 5 (ongoing – see update)
Format: 1
Region: NTSC
Production Source: ITV
General Information: Based on a popular series of novels, Dr. Tony Hill is a clinical psychologist and university instructor, who is initially called in to help local Bradford police DCI Carol Jordan on a serial murder case. Tony becomes a regular contributor to solving cases for the department while balancing his own work at the university, and growing personal feelings for Carol. I love this show, but I’ve seen it wildly out-of-order and haven’t gotten all the DVDs yet. Still, highly, highly recommended. Please note – besides being creepy, because this series deals with violent serial killers, and sex crimes in a realistic way, it is not for the faint of heart nor for those under 18. BBCA stuck a “mature” warning on it for a reason, folks.
Update: These series has a total of six seasons and a follow-up TV movie. Hermione Norris left after Season 3 and was replaced by Simone Lahbib.

These are all the mini-reviews from my posts on Live Journal (now hosted on Dreamwidth). I have a review of Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 5 to write-up next. But I also plan and posting more mini-reviews of my more recent acquisitions of British TV.

Read my British TV Mini-Reviews vol. 1 A – H.

Read my British TV Mini-Reviews vol. 2 H – S.

British TV Mini-Reviews vol. 2 H – S

Previously published on my Live Journal on: 06/14/2009

Note: This is an older review (Second of three), previously posted to my Live Journal and now hosted on Dreamwidth. This review consists of a series of mini-reviews of various British TV series I have watched and that are in my personal DVD collection. Some of these may also have complete reviews on BitchwithWiFi. I’ve decided to copy it as is, silly asides and all. I did correct typos and formatting. Enjoy!

Again, my TV DVD collection is pretty vast, and of course, includes American shows as well as British ones, but in preparation, for a possible panel next Mediawest (a Midwestern Media fan convention) I’m writing-up and posting these mini-reviews. This takes off from the previous post which ended with The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Enjoy!  And feel free to comment with your own suggestions of favorite British TV on DVD.

Title: Hornblower (AKA The Adventures of  Horatio Hornblower)
Featured Actors: Ioan Gruffudd, Robert Lindsay, Jamie Bamber, David Warner.
Episode Length: 2-hr movies
Number of episodes per series (DVD set): 4, 2, 2
Total Seasons (Series): 3
Note: I have the Complete Series boxed sets from A&E which is a total of 8 2-hour movies in 3 boxed sets.
Format: NTSC
Region: 1
Production Source: ITV
General Information: The Life and Times of Horatio Hornblower, a naval officer in 1794, from a wet-behind-the-ears ensign with sea-sickness to a seasoned officer, based on C.S. Forester’s series of books. Beautifully shot, with gorgeous tall ship design British fighting ships, including Horatio’s ship The Indefatigable. Think Master and Commander but with a lower budget, though, honestly, it doesn’t really look like a low budget production. The filming is gorgeous, despite the budget. A bit of trivia, the original C.S. Forester novels were one of Gene Roddenberry’s inspirations for Star Trek.

TitleJeeves and Wooster
Featured Actors: Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry
Episode Length: 1 hour
Number of episodes per series (DVD set): 5 or 6
Total Seasons (Series): 4
Format: NTSC
Region: 1
Production Source: Granada
General Information: Based on PG Wodehouse’s short stories, Jeeves and Wooster is about Bertie Wooster (Laurie) an upper-class twit in 1920s England (although in the last series he spends several episodes “abroad” in the US) and his perfect valet Jeeves (Fry). Jeeves can do anything. He also pulls his charge out of trouble, prevents him from getting in trouble, sees to it that he’s always in style, and basically cares for him like a child. Watch for Laurie’s piano playing – it’s often the highlight of the show.

TitleLife on Mars
Featured Actors: John Simm, Philip Glenister
Episode Length: 1 hour
Number of episodes per series (DVD set): 8
Total Seasons (Series): 2
Format: PAL
Region: 2
Note: At least Series 1 of this series is also available in NTSC, Region 1. But, because there is an American series of the same name, make sure you are buying the right one.
Production Source: BBC
General Information: Sam Tyler is a detective in modern London who’s knocked down by a hit-and-run driver. He wakes up in 1973. However, it is very unclear whether he’s in a coma and dreaming, gone totally off the deep end and has created his own world, or he’s really time-traveled to 1973. This intentional ambiguity is what made the show very, very special. The second thread of the program was that it gave the producers the chance to do a 1970s-style cop show, without running into obvious social changes involved. Life on Mars does actually deal with 70s social issues, including those specific to the UK such as football hooliganism, but in a very clever way, since Sam is from 2006 and has modern viewpoints, and he’s confronted with a world that’s very different. Someone once said, “The Past is a Foreign Country,” and this show deals squarely with that concept. Third, it is a fun 70-style cop show. The publicity, press, and special features all mention that the show is like The Sweeney, something I’ve never seen (so I don’t know), but I found it very similar to The Professionals, which was another reason I really liked it.

TitleNeverWhere
Featured Actors: Gary Bakewell, Laura Fraser
Episode Length: 30 Minutes
Number of episodes per series (DVD set): 6
Total Seasons (Series): 1 (mini-series)
Format: NTSC
Region: 1
Production Source: BBC
General Information: Based on Neil Gaiman’s novel, this fantasy series follows a man, Richard Mayhew, who falls into another world below the London Underground. The plot of the novel is very similar to L. Frank Baum’s novel The Wizard of Oz, in that once he discovers the fantasy world he just wants to go home.

TitleThe Piglet Files
Featured Actors: Nicholas Lyndhurst, Serena Evans, Clive Francis, John Ringham
Episode Length:30 Minutes
Number of episodes per series (DVD set): 7
Total Seasons (Series): 3
Format: NTSC
Region: 1
Production Source: London Weekend Television
General Information: Peter Chapman is a teacher at a small Polytechnic when he is recruited by MI5 to teach the field agents how to use technology. Over time, he also becomes a field agent himself. This is an extremely funny series – smart, clever, intelligent, etc. It also really pokes fun at the British secret services and various programs (The Sandbaggers, James Bond, etc) that celebrate them. However, to call The Piglet Files a British Get Smart would be an over-simplification because the program is not a parody and Peter is not working for his own agency, the way Max works for Control. Rather, Peter really is working for MI5 but in this series, they are very much taking the Mickey out of the British security services, especially MI5.

TitleThe Professionals
Featured Actors: Gordon Jackson, Lewis Collins, Martin Shaw
Episode Length: 1 hour
Number of episodes per series (DVD set): 14 or 15
Total Seasons (Series): 5
Note: Packaged as 4 separate boxed sets
Format: PAL
Region: 2
Production Source: London Weekend Television (ITV)
General Information: William Andrew Philip Bodie (who goes by just Bodie) and Ray Doyle are the top agents for CI5 (Criminal Intelligence 5), a fictional British security agency – somewhere between Scotland Yard, MI5 (internal security) and MI6 (external security). Their “Controller” (or boss) is George Cowley, a principled and dedicated agent of the State. Although this 1970s-era program focuses on anti-terrorism plots for the most part (think about when it was made and what was going on in the UK at the time), the fact that it is a fictional agency with a wide purview allows for a wide plot landscape. There is even a stunning episode that focuses on what happens when an individual representing the State is given too much policing power – that is, citizens may be safe from crime but they also have no freedom (“In the Public Interest”). That’s another focus about “Pros” that makes the show particularly interesting for an American viewer – here’s a show that is willing to criticize the very “agency” it also portrays as heroic. Similarly, the heroes are not perfect – they make mistakes, they mess-up and when they do innocents die. Of course, since it is a 1970s show, there’s plenty of jiggling women who are portrayed as a distraction to Bodie and Doyle, and other attitudes of the 1970s prevail. But it’s still well worth watching, especially in this day and age.

TitleRandall and Hopkirk, Deceased (2000)
Featured Actors: Vic Reeves (Jim Moir), Bob Mortimer, Tom Baker, Emilia Fox
Episode Length: 1 hour
Number of episodes per series (DVD set): 6 or 7
Total Seasons (Series): 2
Format: PAL
Region: 2
Production Source: BBC
General Information: A remake of a 1960s ITV series of the same name, in my personal opinion the 2000 version is better. Jeff  Randall and Marty Hopkirk are best friends and partners in the private detective business. In the premiere episode, Marty is murdered and returns as a ghost to help his friend and partner solve his own murder. When circumstances force Marty to remain past sun-up, he is stuck on Earth as a ghost that only Jeff can see. Tom Baker plays Wyvern, Marty’s “spirit guide”, who teaches him the ins and outs of being a ghost. Jeannie is Marty’s fiancée who ends-up becoming Jeff’s new partner in the detective business. Since she cannot see Marty and doesn’t know that Marty’s ghost visits Jeff, this adds a comic element. Because of Jeff and Marty’s genuine friendship – there is also a bittersweet element to the series since Jeff is in mourning for his friend – yet his friend is still around. This particular version of the series also has a supernatural or paranormal focus. A very, very good program that should have lasted at least one more season.

TitleRobin of Sherwood (AKA Robin Hood)
Featured Actors: Michael Praed (Series 1 & 2), Jason Connery (series 3 only), Clive Mantle, Ray Winstone, Judi Trott, Peter Llewellyn-Williams, Phil Rose, Mark Ryan, Nickolas Grace, Robert Addie, et. al.
Episode Length: 1 hour normally but with several 2-hour episodes
Number of episodes per series (DVD set): 6, 6, 13
Note: I have The Complete Boxed set which consists of 22 episodes on 8 discs (counting each of the many 2-hour or 2-part episodes as a single episode.)
Total Seasons (Series): 3
Format: PAL
Region: 2 (Also available in NTSC, Region 1)
Production Source: ITV
General Information: The single best version of  Robin Hood I’ve ever seen. Robin, in this version, is a follower of Herne the Hunter, a mysterious figure who speaks like Obi-Wan Kenobi or a Vorlon. However, when not possessed by Herne, the very old human male lives in a cave. Robin, as Herne’s son, gets advice from both Herne, the mysterious god, and Herne the guy who gets possessed by the god. It’s a little confusing but it gives this version of Robin Hood it’s lovely mystical quality. Because Michael Praed leaves after the second series and is replaced with Jason Connery, this is also the only version of Robin Hood I’ve seen that deals with the death of  Robin Hood. And, both versions of the legend are used – Praed is the traditional pauper, Robin Hood; whereas Jason Connery is Lord Robert of Huntington, a Peer of the Realm, who turns his back on Society when he sees how the people are being exploited and takes up Robin’s role, gathering Robin’s scattered men and women in the process.

TitleThe Sandbaggers
Featured Actors: Roy Marsden, Richard Vernon, Dennis Burgess, Ray Lonnen, Alan MacNaughton, Bob Sherman, Jerome Willis, Michael Cashman, et. al.
Episode Length: 1 hour
Number of episodes per series (DVD set): 6
Total Seasons (Series): 3
Format: NTSC
Region: 1
Production Source: Granada
General Information: A serious fictional portrayal of MI6. Although there are some great funny lines in this series, overall it’s very, very depressing, and regular characters are killed off on a routine basis. But, it’s still very much a “do not miss” show if you like the spy genre.

Title: Sapphire and Steel
Featured Actors: David McCallum, Joanna Lumley, (and David Collins, occasional)
Episode Length: 30-minute episodes, forming multi-part stories
Story Length: 4-8 30 Minute episodes, one story per disc. The boxed set contains all six stories.
Format: NTSC
Region: 1
Production Source: ITV
General Information: A mysterious, moody, and dark series. Sapphire and Steel are “elements” who act sort of time detectives or police officers, showing up after time has messed-up to fix things and set things right. This is the weirdest TV show I’ve ever seen and still enjoyed. (The Prisoner is weirder, but I don’t like it – it’s too strange.) Needless to say, you really don’t know what is going on. Ever. Though in the individual stories, all of which are very, very different from each other, you can follow what’s going on, it’s just really hard to describe such a strange show, accurately. It’s also very scary and dark. Joanna Lumley is Sapphire, normally dressed in blue, with the powers of telepathic communication with Steel, and the ability to manipulate time to some extent. David McCallum is Steel who is super strong and has the ability to lower his body temp to near absolute zero (though’ it also takes a lot of energy). Because of the 30-minute cliffhanger format (the same as classic Doctor Who), the series is very addictive.

The Sarah Jane Adventures – See separate entry under Doctor Who

Title: Sea of Souls
Featured Actors: Bill Paterson
Episode Length: 1 hour
Number of episodes per series (DVD set): 6
Total Seasons (Series): 2 (that I know of)
Format: PAL
Region: 2
Production Source: BBC
General Information: Set in Scotland, this series follows a university professor and his students as they investigate paranormal mysteries. Each episode is a 2-hour movie, however on the DVD set they are broken into 1-hour parts with a “to be continued” card.

TitleSherlock Holmes (AKA, The Adventures of Sherlock HolmesThe Return of Sherlock HolmesThe Casebook of Sherlock HolmesThe Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, and various movie specials)
Featured Actors: Jeremy Brett, David Burke (Series 1 only), Edward Hardwicke (thereafter)
Episode Length: 1 hour, some 2-hr movies
Number of episodes per series (DVD set): varies
Note: I have the Complete Boxed set, which is 41 episodes on 12 discs. It is sold in the US under the title “Sherlock Holmes the Complete Granada TV Series”.
Total Seasons (Series): 5
Format: NTSC
Region: 1
Production Source: Granada
General Information: No one can play Holmes like Jeremy Brett, and surprisingly both Watsons work extremely well as well since the changeover is made between “The Final Problem” and “The Empty House” when Watson is supposed to be three years older anyway. What makes this version of Sherlock Holmes so good is that they actually adapted the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories – which are, of course, darn good.  And, it being British, the historical detail is unmatched.

Read my British TV Mini Reviews vol. 1 – A through H

British TV Mini-Reviews vol. 1 A – H

Previously published on my Live Journal on: 06/09/2009

Note: This is an older review (first of three), previously posted to my Live Journal and now hosted on Dreamwidth. This review consists of a series of mini-reviews of various British TV series I have watched and that are in my personal DVD collection. Some of these may also have complete reviews on BitchwithWiFi. I’ve decided to copy it as is, silly asides and all. I did correct typos and formatting. Enjoy!

In prep for a panel I might do at next year’s Mediawest (a Midwestern Media Fan Convention) I wrote up brief summaries for all the British TV in my DVD collection. Keep in mind I also collect US TV and US film on DVD. Actually, I’m guessing I have around 200 films on DVD and all but a couple are American films. I do really like British TV though – so, although I have American stuff, yeah, my collection is heavily weighted to British TV. I might post just a list of my American TV shows (possibly not annotated – as most should be well known.) Because the list is long it will be posted over several days. Doctor Who and it’s spin-offs will be posted separately. (Update: Because of the plethora of DC Comics based TV right now, this is no longer true of my collection as a whole. I probably now have an equal amount of US and British TV.)

Vocabulary Guide:

British-American Usage Chart

Programme – Series
Series – Season
Part – Episode
Serial – Story or Episode (for Doctor Who or Sapphire & Steel)
Double-length – Two-part story or episode
Ep. – Episode, in the American sense of the word.
AKA – Also Known As (Some British series had different titles in the US, or each season (series) had its own title)
MI5 – Military Intelligence 5, the British internal security service, similar to the FBI in the US.
MI6 – Military Intelligence 6, the British external security service, similar to the CIA in the US.
Scotland Yard – the British National Police Force. Somewhat like the FBI in the US, and somewhat like the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) in Canada. They are generally invited into cases throughout the country, but may also cover rural areas, like the RCMP.
The Met – Depends on context, but usually short for the London Metropolitan Police.
Oxbridge – Oxford and/or Cambridge – not only refers to the two universities, or to someone who has graduated or attended either one, the term “Oxbridge” also refers to an attitude of intelligence, breeding, cultured-ness, etc. Somewhat like the US terms, “High brow” or “Ivy League” but without the snobbishness that implies (The British universities allow anyone with the intelligence to do so to attend, without the costly fees that would keep poorer students away.)

British TV Recommendation List (AKA my Personal (UK) DVD List in Alphabetical Order)

Title: All Creatures Great and Small
Featured Actors: Robert Hardy, Peter Davison, Christopher Timothy, Carol Drinkwater (Series 1-3), Lynda Bellingham (Later Series)
Episode Length: 1 hour
Number of episodes per series (DVD set): 13 or 14, depending on set
Total Seasons (Series): 7
Series in my personal collection: 3, plus Christmas specials
Format: NTSC
Region: 1
Production Source: BBC
General Information: Based on the series of autobiographical novels by James Herriot, this series is about vets in 1930s England. It’s a really great show about people, surviving in bad times, and dealing with hardship in a blunt, yet accepting way. If you’ve never seen it you are missing something. Also, like many British shows, familiar actors do show up in guest roles, including Patrick Troughton and Nicholas Courtney (not in the same episode).

TitleBang Bang It’s Reeves and Mortimer
Featured Actors (Comedians): Vic Reeves (Jim Moir), Bob Mortimer
Episode Length: 30 minutes
Number of episodes: Unknown
Total Seasons (Series): Unknown – I have a Complete set
Discs: 1
Format: PAL
Region: 2
Production Source: BBC
General Information: A British sketch comedy show. However, this isn’t Oxbridge, it’s a working-class comedy. Reeves and Mortimer were among the first of the New Wave, lower/working class (AKA Blue Collar) comedians, and one of the most successful. (Similar New Wave comedies include: The League of GentlemenLittle Britain, and Absolutely Fabulous). Overall, I wasn’t that impressed, but I had picked up all of the Reeves and Mortimer series after seeing Randall and Hopkirk, Deceased (see latter entry).

Title: Black Adder
Featured Actors: Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson, Miranda Richardson, Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, Tim McInnerny
Episode Length: 30 minutes
Number of episodes per series (DVD set): 6
Total Seasons (Series): 4, plus specials
Format: NTSC
Region: 1
Production Source: BBC
Note: I have “The Complete Black Adder” boxed set, which includes all four series and the specials. The box set is 27 episodes and 5 discs.
General Information: A Oxbridge comedy that is quite possibly the funniest British show I’ve ever seen. This historical comedy also teaches history (albeit in a twisted way). Blackadder consists of four series (seasons), each with it’s own title, set in different time periods (The Middle Ages; Elizabethan England; The Regency, and World War I. Specials included a Victorian Christmas Special, a special set during the Parliamentary wars, and a futuristic special with time travel to various eras.) The casts were different for each season and some popular guests returned as different characters in other seasons. Notably: Brian Blessed in series I only as  Richard IV; Rik Mayall as Lord Flashheart (Series 2) and Cap’t Flashheart (Series 4); and Gabrielle Glaister as the cross-dressing Bob (a girl pretending to be a guy) in Series 2 and 4. Nicola Bryant is in the Christmas special. Again, if you somehow missed it, do yourself a favor and check it out.

Title: Blake’s 7
Featured Actors: Paul Darrow, Gareth Thomas, Michael Keating, Sally Knyvette, Jan Chappell, Jacqueline Pearce, et. al.
Episode Length: 1 hour
Number of episodes per series (DVD set): 13
Total Seasons (Series): 4
Format: PAL
Region: 2
Production Source:  BBC
General Information: A group of criminals escapes from an Earth that is under the control of a tyrannical Federation in an alien spacecraft they re-name The Liberator. An anti-Star Trek science fiction program. Although there are some great funny lines in this series, overall it’s very, very depressing, and regular characters are killed off on a routine basis. Although this was my favorite British SF show after Doctor Who in the 80s when I first saw it, it doesn’t stand up that well. But still worth investigating if you don’t mind the really bad special effects.

TitleBrass
Featured Actors: Timothy West, Caroline Blakiston, Geoffrey Hisliff, Geoffrey Hutchings, James Saxon, Emily Morgan, David Ashton, Shaun Scott, Gary Cady.
Episode Length: 30 minutes
Number of episodes per series (DVD set): 13
Total Seasons (Series): 1
Format: PAL
Region: 2
Production Source: Granada
General Information: A British version of Soap, in that it parodies soap operas. This series follows the adventures of two families in a Welsh mining village; the poor Fairchilds who work in the mines, and the rich Hardacres, who own the mines. The show also parodies Dallas and other night-time soap operas, but in a very British style. The word “brass” itself is British slang for money (not “upper-echelon military” – that’s American slang). Brass is a very, very funny show.

TitleCatterick
Featured Actors: Vic Reeves (Jim Moir), Bob Mortimer
Episode Length: 30 minutes
Number of episodes per series (DVD set): 6
Total Seasons (Series): 2 (only 1 on DVD so far)
Format: PAL
Region: 2
Production Source:  BBC
General Information: A fantastic British New Wave comedy but with a plot. There is also heavy use of music in this series, so if it ever makes it’s way onto Region 1/NTSC discs be on the lookout for the dreaded music replacement notice. The show involves a man, just out of the military, on his way home, when chaos ensues. This series is very weird, but since it does have a plot and music, and it’s also lots of fun, it’s more approachable than the other Reeves and Mortimer comedies.

TitleDangerMouse
Featured Actors: Animated
Episode Length: 10 minutes or 30 minutes
Number of episodes per series (DVD set): Varies
Total Seasons (Series): 7
Note: A&E bundled two Series in each set originally, and subsequently has issued a Complete boxed set. I have the Series 1 & 2, Series 3 & 4, and Series 5 & 6 boxed sets.
Format: NTSC
Region: 1
Production Source:  Thames
General Information: “He’s terrific, he’s magnific, he’s the greatest super agent in the world – Danger Mouse! Danger Mouse, our Mouse, he’s terrific, he’s magnific, he’s the best! Danger Mouse!” Danger Mouse, the world’s smallest secret agent is a small white mouse known for his white turtlenecks and black eye patch. Aided by his hamster assistant, Penfold, he reports to Colonel K (a Badger) and fights evil and chaos (usually in the form of Baron Greenback, a frog, and his assistants Nero, a caterpillar, and his other assistant a crow). Danger Mouse lives in the top flat of a normal red pillar-box style post box. Full of puns, silly situations, parodies of just about everything, and witty dialog – Danger Mouse is enjoyable for both children and adults. The Narrator gets some of the funniest lines, like the Narrator in the US-series Rocky and Bullwinkle.
Note: in some areas in the US, when episodes of Danger Mouse were aired they were joined together and the narration stripped out – this destroyed an awful lot of the humor of the show. The DVDs faithfully restore all the narration. Also, the voices are the original ones, not the dubs (apparently, again, only when shown on TV in certain areas, some of the characters were over-dubbed for unknown reasons).

Doctor Who – See Separate Entry There’s an awful lot and I have just about all of it. (Update: See Doctor Who Category on this blog, it is a major interest of mine.)

TitleFawlty Towers
Featured Actors: John Cleese, Prunella Scales, Andrew Sachs, Connie Booth
Episode Length: 30 minutes
Number of episodes per series (DVD set): 12 – in the Complete Set
Note: I have the complete collection boxed set – 12 eps, on 3 discs.
Total Seasons (Series): 3
Format: NTSC
Region: 1
Production Source: BBC
General Information: John Cleese as exactly the wrong man to run a hotel. Nuff said. Actually, this Oxbridge comedy is a true classic. The episodes often started with one small thing that then snowballed with hilarious results.

TitleThe Grand
Featured Actors:
Episode Length:  1
Number of episodes per series (DVD set): 8
Total Seasons (Series): 2
Format: 1
Region: NTSC
Production Source: Granada
General Information: Russell T. Davies’ historical drama set in a hotel in the 1920s. I bought this because it is Russell T. Davies (Doctor Who) producing, and I wanted to like it. But, to me, it came off a cheap imitation of Upstairs, Downstairs.

TitleHamish MacBeth
Featured Actors: Robert Carlyle, David Ashton, et. al.
Episode Length: 1 hour
Number of episodes per series (DVD set): 5 to 7
Total Seasons (Series): 3
Format: PAL
Region: 2 (Note: This series also available in NTSC, Region 1)
Production Source: BBC
General Information: A small town constable in the Scottish Highlands solves mysteries (with his Highland White Scottish Terrier) while sorting out his love-life and figuring out his destiny. A bit strange, but very good. PC MacBeth’s goal in life is to solve crime in his beloved Lochdubh, without getting promoted, since that would mean leaving the village. Avoiding promotion is an issue because he’s very good at his job.

TitleHeat of the Sun
Featured Actors: Trevor Eve, Susannah Harker, Michael Byrne
Episode Length: 2-hr movies that aired on PBS’s Mystery!
Number of episodes per series (DVD set): 3
Total Seasons (Series): 1 (that I know of)
Format:   NTSC  Region: 1
Production Source: Unknown
General Information: Trevor Eve, whom I’ve long admired as an actor, plays a Scotland Yard Detective sent to Kenya, partially as punishment, and partially to “clean up the town” as the saying goes. Det. Albert Tyburn is an honest cop, who is thrown into a situation where the super-rich ex-pat “locals” do whatever they want and the police have stopped caring. Tyburn wishes to do something about this. An excellent mystery series, I wish there was more. Besides, Trevor Eve, in khakis, running around, looking hot, and boy does he – what’s not to love?

TitleHitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Featured Actors: Simon Jones, David Dixon, Peter Jones (as the voice of  the book), Mark Wing-Davey, Sandra Dickinson
Episode Length:  30 minutes
Number of episodes per series (DVD set): 6
Total Seasons (Series): 1 (mini-series)
Format: NTSC
Region: 1
Production Source: BBC
General Information: The original British television mini-series, based on the books by Douglas Adams, which was in turn based on the radio series. Although the effects are not good, the mini-series is far superior to the American movie by the same name. The plot goes like this: Arthur Dent is rescued by his friend Ford Prefect shortly before the Earth is destroyed by a Vogon Destructor Fleet to make way for a hyperspace bypass. In a bit of irony, Arthur’s house had been slated for destruction for precisely the same reasons. Ford introduces Arthur to the Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the galaxy’s most useful and popular book. Again, an Oxbridge comedy filled with biting wit and sarcasm, very funny asides, interesting, useless, and possibly untrue trivia, iconic characters, outright silliness, the works. Even though it has some truly awful effects (Just ignore Zaphod Beeblebrox’s second head), the “computer-generated” drawings by the Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy were actually all hand-drawn animation which is pretty incredible. It’s a must-see!

And we’re only up to “H”.  And there will be two more posts to come.